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Kullervo


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Audio CD, November 21, 2006
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Kullervo + A Cappella Works By Copland, Durufle, Tavener + Others [SACD] + Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14 / "Romeo & Juliette" (Love Scene)
Price for all three: $26.64

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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Sibelius (1865-1957) wrote Kullervo, his first large-scale orchestral composition, at the age of 25. As this recording's conductor, Robert Spano, says, it bears within it the seeds of all his later symphonies. The text is taken from the Finnish national epic Kalevala, a collection of orally transmitted ancient legends assembled and published by Elias Lönnrot in 1835. Sibelius loved the Kalevala, which inspired several of his symphonic poems. Its uniform eight-syllable lines and ritualistically repeated phrases sounded to him like "pure music," hinting at the "treasures...hidden in our folk songs," and before writing Kullervo he immersed himself in studying their rugged meters and rhythms.

Kullervo's story is dark and violent; while the sections Sibelius composed do not form a cohesive narrative, they do convey the hero's tragedy. Raised by his family's enemies, he supposes himself an orphan but, blessed with magical powers, foils their attempts on his life and escapes. Wandering alone, he discovers his parents and siblings, though one sister is missing. Sent on a sleigh-ride, he overtakes three maidens, who refuse his invitation to join him; however, he abducts and seduces the third, only to learn that she is his lost sister. In despair, she kills herself; Kullervo goes into battle yet survives, but returning home finds his family dead and falls upon his sword.

This turbulent, brooding tale seems eminently suited to Sibelius' somber, often bombastic style, beginning with the long orchestral introduction whose ominous low instruments presage what's to come. Supporting the poem's reiterations with obsessively repeated motives and phrases, the music illustrates and underlines the story's events and emotions: vengeful defiance, boisterous joy and triumph, desperate lamentation. The orchestration is rich and colorful, swooping up and down from whispers to crashes. The performance is admirable; the vocal parts demand an almost constantly high level of dynamics, and just learning the Finnish text is an extraordinary achievement. --Edith Eisler


1. Introduction
2. Kullervo's Youth
3. Kullervo and His Sister
4. Kullervo Goes to Battle
5. Kullervo's Death

Product Details

  • Performer: Sibelius, Robert Spano, Hellekant, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Gunn, et al.
  • Audio CD (November 21, 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B000JCETY2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,604 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Brandt on May 25, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Bob Woods and the boys and girls out there on the shore of Lake Erie have created some great sounding recordings in their day but none better than [as good as?] Jean Sibelius's Kullervo. Atlanta's Symphony Hall is virtually a second home to these Ohioans, and they've got its sound down to a tee.

I admit I was not familiar with the work, a youthful composition played in its entirety but once in the composer's life. Probably the mature Sibelius would have written it differently, but here and there you get a glimpse of the 2nd Symphony or Finlandia that would eventually emerge from his pen. I need to spend some more time with young Mr. S's piece to gain full appreciation, but it is quite accessible on first hearing. Its form is hard to classify. The multi-movement format lends itself to being called a symphony, but given the heroic program on which it's based, symphonic poem would be closer to the truth. And how many classical pieces have you ever heard that have incest at the core of its program? (For the squeamish, it didn't happen on purpose.) The Atlanta Symphony's playing gets better every year, and this recording is no exception.

Is the SACD worth the additional money? First, of course, you have to have an SACD-capable player, and, to take advantage of the surround channels, you have to have at least a four-channel system. (Five is better.) Frankly, unless you have a very fine audio system, you are unlikely to discern much sonic difference other than the surround experience. But if you do have quality gear, it is definitely worth the few extra bucks because SACD reproduces violins and soprano voices more accurately than in the standard CD world.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David Carroll on January 18, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Full disclaimer: I am one of the 100 male voices on this recording. (The choral portions, while a gratifying accomplishment, only make up about 25% of the work.)

Ignoring my bias for my own choir, I must praise the ASO for their brilliant playing on this album. The transparency and immediacy of their performance showcases how far Spano has brought the orchestra since the start of his tenure.

One possible reason for this: Robert Spano's mother is Finnish. He told us in rehearsal that he doesn't speak the language beyond a few phrases but the sound and character of it are installed deep within in his earliest memories. Clearly this tonal memory translated beyond his dead-on pronunciation corrections to the chorus and went all the way to the core sound of the entire piece. We never forget our mother tongue.

Kullervo isn't a work for everyone (incest-driven double-suicides, anyone?), but if you are a Sibelius fan I think you will enjoy Spano's passion, our famous Atlanta choral precision and Telarc's superb recording quality.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steve Mason on October 6, 2011
Format: Audio CD
A particular delight is the reading of 'Kullervo', which is a revelation, since I had always thought of it as rather long-winded and second-rate. Here all the nature-painting, the rushing of the wind in the trees, the bird-calls, along with the total commitment of all concerned, not least the choir, make for an experience which leaves one with the realization that Sibelius never wrote a second-class symphony. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that he is a more profound and subtle symphonist than the now over-played Mahler. If the best sound is a must, then go for the Telac recordings.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nessy NH on June 19, 2012
Format: Audio CD
I must admit I'm not a huge fan of classical music, and it comprises just about 15% of what I listen.
So, my opinion is an opinion of a casual listener that loves many kind of music, as soon as it's a good music (well, except of manufactured pop, rap and most of the country music :))
I wasn't familiar with Sibelius at all until I tried this record after reading other reviews. I must say this record is one of my best discoveries in the world of classical music. The music is awesome, a lot of great themes and melodies, and performance is stellar.
This is Multichannel SACD, and its Surround Sound sounds great. The recording is clear is well-balanced, and does not have those very silent and then very loud moments that unfortunately take place on some classical music SACDs, like, say Ravel's.
Highly recommended!
Even if you are not into classical music, but enjoy symphonic metal in the vein of Threion or Within Temptation, you might like it, because this is where they took their inspiration and probably even stole many stuff! :)
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